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by Ben Guggenheim, NSLI-Y Chinese, Suzhou Summer 2014

I am constantly building on my NSLI-Y summer in Suzhou, China experience, and it is awesome when I am able to give back to my community at the same time. Last year I was fortunate enough to receive the Rosenblatt Summer Fellowship Grant to fund my community service project, Gupeng’s Chinese Language and Culture Camp.

“Gupeng” is my Chinese name and it means "many friends". I created the curriculum and daily lesson plans, and the grant made it possible for me to purchase the necessary teaching materials and supplies for cultural activities. For three weeks I taught fifteen seventh grade students in Marin City, an under-served community. Classes were about an hour and a half long, divided equally between language lessons and cultural activities. I was able to save money on renting a classroom by offering my camp in conjunction with the Hannah Project’s Freedom School.

The students were awesome! They really appreciated having lessons and learned a lot- such as how to introduce themselves (using their Chinese names) and their family members, how to count to ten (some to 100 and beyond), and how to talk about their favorite foods and sports.The cultural activities were a huge hit too. The students learned how to use chopsticks and had team competitions using chopsticks with different size, shape and texture foods. They sampled foods and teas from different regions in China. They studied Chinese superstitions and geography, and they made family trees in Chinese. We also had Tai Chi lessons and ping pong matches. At the end of the camp, we had a big cultural celebration which the students’ families attended.

This summer I will be a teaching fellow with Summerbridge (Breakthrough Collaborative) which provides academic enrichment to under-served college bound middle school students during the summer and tutoring during the school year. I look forward to teaching Chinese language and culture as an elective in addition to whatever math science or English core class I am assigned. If time allows, I hope to continue my language and culture camp on the weekends during the summer or fall. I also am a peer tutor for first year Chinese students, and the president and co-founder of my high school’s Chinese language and culture club.